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Trump Lawyers Talk With DOJ As Jan. 6 Criminal Prove Intensifies; U.S. Economy Adds 528,000 Jobs In July, Far Surpassing Expectations; Russia Ready To Discuss Prisoner Swap After Griner Sentencing. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired August 05, 2022 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: That's the way you have on the Committee across party lines when you've encouraged Democrats to vote here in Wyoming for you?
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Well, I think there are separate things. I think that certainly when you look at what's happening on the Select Committee, you look what's happening in Congress, it is weird. It's - I did not anticipate certainly that any of the things that have happened since January 6 would happen.
I think it's been a really important experience and I think it's been really important, both, and mostly because of the work we've been able to do together for the country. And I think it's been an important experience working together. And we talk about the fact that on our committee, we don't have people that are politically grandstanding or trying to score cheap shots that were very focused on the substance. And we have vastly different views of many of the issues that the country is facing, but we're allies in terms of the fundamental constitutional issues.
And here in Wyoming, we have same day registration. It is the right of people to register, whatever party they want to register as and my message is one for all Wyomingites. I represent every single person in this state and I believe that there are thousands and thousands of people across our state who fundamentally understand why it's so important to have somebody who's going to abide by their oath of office.
HUNT: There might be Democrats who would vote for a Cheney.
HUNT: Pretty remarkable. You said in your Reagan Library speech, men are running the world and it's really not going all that well. Do you think voters here in the U.S. are ready for a woman to run things?
CHENEY: Sure. Look, I think that one of the things that has been very moving for me over the course of the last year and a half has been the reaction of women and not just the women who've testified, although, we've seen the incredible bravery of people like Cassidy Hutchinson and Sarah Matthews, and Ruby Freeman, and Shaye Moss and Caroline Edwards. It takes real bravery to stand up and tell the truth as those women have and I think that's been really important. HUNT: Based on that, do you think your - does Dick Cheney want Liz
Cheney to run for president in 2024.
CHENEY: Dick Cheney is a big Liz Cheney supporter, I'd say that.
HUNT: Is he encouraging you to run?
CHENEY: Listen, I talk to him every day about many things. And certainly his concern look like I am right now, he's really focused on this moment and on what's happening and on - both of us have just this real sadness, frankly, about what's happening to our party, and a real despair about how could it be that so many Republicans would refuse to stand up and tell the truth and it is a scary moment for the nation.
HUNT: I would just like the record to reflect that you did not say the Dick Cheney is not telling you to run for president in 2024. Liz Cheney, thank you very much.
CHENEY: Thank you, Kasie.
HUNT: I really appreciate your time.
CHENEY: Great to be with you. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So you can see there, Cheney wants to stay on the national stage even if she loses her primary race on August 16th. She'll obviously have the platform of the January 6 Committee at least through the fall to continue the work that she's been doing. Because, as you know, the political reality right now is that it is still very possible that Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president in 2024 and I think you could tell there that if that happens, Liz Cheney feels like her work is not over.
The question, of course, is whether she could succeed in preventing him as she puts it from ever being in the Oval Office again. So we'll - we are all about to find out there. Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kasie, thank you so much for that interview. And staying with the Capitol attack, there are new signs today that the Justice Department - their investigation is getting closer to the former president. We now know that Trump's legal team is directly talking with top DOJ officials and sources say Trump has asked his advisors if he's in personal legal Jeopardy. CNN's Kara Scannell joins me now. Kara, you are on the team that broke this exclusive CNN reporting, what more are you learning?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Dana, as you said, we're learning that some of Trump's attorneys are speaking with the head of the Justice Department's investigation into January 6 and the interference with the election. And our sources tell us that these talks revolve around the issue of executive privilege and whether the former president can try to shield from prosecutors certain communications that he had while he was in office. Now, this tells us that this investigation is accelerating, that
they're already discussing and debating this issue and that the focus is in the West Wing, because prosecutors want to be able to access conversations, the questions, the responses that occurred between some of these top aides that you see on the screen and the former president.
This has come to the Hill already because the prosecutors have brought before the grand jury to a former Vice President Mike Pence's aides as Marc Short and Greg Jacob. They've also subpoenaed the former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy, Patrick Philbin.
And there's - we've already seen a lot of DOJ activity with search warrants on Jeffrey Clark, the former DOJ official and John Eastman, who was someone who's working with Trump on this fake electoral scheme. So this is showing us that these conversations are - they're engaged on this issue. DOJ has said that they are - or they haven't said, but our sources have told us that they are prepared to go to battle on this and they think that they will win.
Now the Trump campaign or Trump spokesman gave us a statement yesterday for our story where they showed that they're still digging in on this issue. This is what the spokesman said: "How can any future president ever have private conversations with his attorneys, counselors and other senior advisors if any such adviser is forced, either during or after the presidency, in front of an Unselect Committee or other entity, and be forced to reveal those privileged, confidential conversations?"
So we can see that there is no agreement at this point on how they're going to proceed over this issue.
BASH: And Kara, the former president has been advised by his own team to cut off contact with his chief of staff at the end there, Mark Meadows, is he doing that?
SCANNELL: Well, Dana, our sources tell us that he is not heeding that advice, that he continues to speak and have conversations with Mark Meadows. Although one source said that their relationship is not what it used to be.
BASH: Kara, thank you so much. Appreciate that reporting.
And joining me now to discuss more senior CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig and former Trump White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah Griffin. Nice to see both of you.
Elie, I want to start with you on the legal front. You heard what Kara's reporting is. I'm sure you've seen it on cnn.com. Trump's lawyers are saying let's just start with Meadows where we left off, leave Meadows alone. Is that something that a DOJ they're going to go: Okay, sure. We're just going to leave Meadows alone. Answer that.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Dana ... BASH: And then also as part of it, what does it tell you that they
are asking that of the DOJ?
HONIG: Well, so first of all I think it's good advice from Donald Trump's lawyers that he should stay away from Mark Meadows, and frankly, anybody who might be a witness on this. Let's just say it straight up, Donald Trump has a little bit of a witness tampering problem. He has shown us that throughout his professional career in the Mueller investigation, in the Ukraine investigation.
And so if I'm advising Donald Trump, I'm telling him just cut off all communications. There's no benefit for you in having any kind of talks with Mark Meadows.
The other thing is you just never know in a multifaceted investigation like this who might end up getting charged, who might end up cooperating. There's no particular reason to believe Mark Meadows is cooperating at this point, but things change. Sometimes people come under pressure, people change their minds, people do cooperate. And if someone does cooperate, then any conversation Donald Trump or anyone else has had with them becomes fair game for prosecutor.
So I completely understand the advice that his lawyers are giving him. Now Donald Trump sounds like he's not following that advice. He's a difficult client to manage, but there's a sound reason for it.
BASH: So Alyssa, you - we've all heard the criticism from Democrats and Republicans of the Merrick Garland Justice Department that they were moving too slowly on these issues. That doesn't seem to be the case right now with all of these are reporting about all of these senior Trump officials being asked to come and testify before the grand jury. Do you have a sense of how far, and how wide and how deep the DOJ might be going in the Trump White House?
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that's absolutely right. There was sort of this sense that they were behind the eight ball, the January 6 Committee was moving quicker than DOJ. And I think, in fact, wisely the Department of Justice has just kept under wraps what's been a very sweeping, and smart, and steady investigation, so I think they are further along than most of us anticipated.
But one thing I want to note to the point that Elie was making, yes, this is true that advisors and Trump's lawyers are telling him he should not be in touch with his former Chief of Staff. My interpretation, my understanding, knowing Donald Trump and knowing Mark Meadows, is that part of why he's staying in touch with him and still reaching out is because he doesn't want him to flip.
There's still a nonzero scenario. I don't think it's likely but that Mark Meadows could become the John Dean of this entire investigation. If he feels politically legally, isolated enough, he could actually turn on the former president.
Now, I don't think that's going to happen, but I think Trump is aware enough of that that he's trying to keep him in the inner fold. [15:10:00]
BASH: Let me ask you about that because, Alyssa, you know Mark Meadows extremely well. I first met you when Mark Meadows was a member of Congress and you were a press secretary there and then you went over to the White House with him. Do you think that he has the kind of persona character where he could end up being the linchpin to a very and even bigger investigation, a takedown of his former boss?
GRIFFIN: I mean, it's something I hope and pray about. The man that I worked for, when I worked for Mark Meadows, I thought he was a person of deep integrity and somebody who did value the Constitution above his political whims. And I hope that that man that I thought I knew may still be there.
It's never too late to do the right thing in this. I mean, we saw that more witnesses came forward in the January 6 hearings as they saw others come forward. It's not too late to cooperate and I would say this, too. The legal walls are closing in on him, whether it's in Georgia or this DOJ grand jury.
So if there were a time to cut a deal and tell the truth that you know, which is that this man is wholly unfit for office, that he did play a role in inciting the violence on the Capitol and that he did pressure the Department of Justice, now is the time to tell that story.
BASH: Just back to the legal questions, Elie, you heard the report from Kara about the argument that Trump's attorneys are making to the DOJ about executive privilege saying if my people come and talk to you that - what's to say that any other future White House staffer is going to be forced to do the same, it's precedent setting. Could it go all the way to the Supreme Court and how long do you think that process could take if it gets to that point?
HONIG: It could go to the Supreme Court, Dana, very well. And Donald Trump's spokesperson there actually does sort of correctly explained the reason behind executive privilege. You don't want presidents worried about their confidential communications later coming out.
But the statement only tells half of the story, because the Supreme Court has told us in the Richard Nixon case back in 1974 and otherwise, the privilege doesn't cover all conversations. It covers legitimate policy conversations, legitimate conversations about domestic policy, foreign policy, military moves. It does not, however, cover wrongdoing. It does not cover conversations about crimes or conversations that may be embarrassing or expose political scandals.
So I think Trump's likely to lose it if it goes to courts. But as you say, it will take time. And I just want to add one thing, I think it's fascinating to hear Alyssa's insights into Mark Meadows. I agree with her. There's no indication that he's cooperating yet. A lot of the decision to cooperate comes down to personal integrity and morals. But a lot of it also comes down to just the bottom line dollars and cents.
If there comes a day where Mark Meadows himself is looking at jail time, we're not there, but if that happens, I've seen people flip who you never expected to flip when they're looking down the barrel of an indictment. So a lot to be seen here, but an interesting dynamic at play.
BASH: Elie Honig, Alyssa Farah Griffin, thank you so much. Happy Friday.
GRIFFIN: Thanks, Dana.
HONIG: Thanks, Dana.
BASH: And President Biden is touting today's jobs report that showed the U.S. added 528,000 jobs just last month, more than double what economists predicted. The unemployment rate now stands at a pre- pandemic level, 3.5 percent. CNN Business Reporter Matt Egan and CNN White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond join us now.
So Jeremy - excuse me, Matt, I'm going to start with you. What do these numbers reflect?
MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Dana, this jobs market is still really hot. Demand for workers remains very strong right now. Basically, everyone on Wall Street expected that this report was going to show that hiring cooled off in July. Instead, it actually heated up, 528,000 jobs added in July, not only is that twice as much as the consensus, it's actually 200,000 jobs, bigger than even the most optimistic forecaster had anticipated. It's really impressive.
And hiring was strong across the board, leisure and hospitality, healthcare, government professional services, all of them added jobs and wages unexpectedly accelerated. Now, this blockbuster growth means that the unemployment rate has gone down to three and a half percent. That matches the pre-COVID low to get anything lower than that, you have to go back to 1969.
The Hispanic unemployment rate is actually at a record low on records that go back to the 1970s. And if you look at total payrolls in the United States, they have now gone back to February 2020 levels. That means all of the jobs lost during COVID have now been recovered.
I think all of this is going to quiet those fears that the U.S. economy is already in a recession. I mean, yes, GDP is weak, but the jobs market is really strong. If anything, it's too strong because the Federal Reserve has been trying pretty strong. They've been trying very aggressively to slow the jobs market down, because this pace of hiring and wages is just not sustainable.
It's actually inflationary at a time when inflation is already way too high. So I think that in the short-term, this is very good news. I think longer term though it does raise questions, Dana, about just what the Fed is going to have to do to slow this jobs market down.
BASH: Thank you so much.
And Jeremy, we heard from President Biden understandably coming out and touting this jobs report. What more did he say?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. President Biden calling this an outstanding jobs report. And it caps off really a week of political winds for the President, beginning, of course, with the killing of the head of al-Qaeda, that the President was able to announce on Monday. We saw just yesterday, this apparent deal between Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the lone democratic holdout over this reconciliation bill, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act.
She struck a deal with the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and it appears that bill is now going to move forward. All of this was welcome news that President Biden greeted today. He talks not only about this strong jobs report, talking about the 50-year record unemployment rate being down to 3.5 percent, a half million jobs added, but also talking about gas prices coming down.
But the President still taking a moment to acknowledge that so many Americans even as they see this very strong jobs market, they're perhaps still not feeling a strong economy and they're dealing, of course, with stubbornly high inflation. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know people will hear today's extraordinary jobs report and say, they don't see it. They don't feel it in their own lives. I know how hard it is. I know it's hard to feel good about job creation when you already have a job and you're dealing with rising prices in food and gas and so much more. That's why I'm doing everything in my power to lower the cost for families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAMOND: And the President, Dana, is, of course, pointing to that Inflation Reduction Act as another step that he believes will help lower costs for families. The Senate is expected to begin taking procedural votes on this legislation tomorrow. Interestingly though, while economists say that it will help address inflation in the long- term, in the short-term there seems to be very little impact. The White House though is saying it'll lower costs, including prescription drug costs for many, many Americans. Dana?
BASH: Jeremy Diamond and Matt Egan, thank you so much for that reporting.
And 24 hours after a Russian court sentence WNBA star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison, the Kremlin now says it's ready to discuss a prisoner swap. What does this mean for Griner and also for Paul Whelan, another American in prison in Russia? We'll discuss that with his brother ahead.
BASH: Both Russian and U.S. officials have confirmed they're ready to discuss a possible prisoner exchange. This comes one day after basketball star, Brittney Griner, was sentenced to nine years in jail for drug smuggling or at least for having drugs with her. Another American, Paul Whelan, is also being held in Russia, serving a hard labor sentence for alleged espionage. Whelan's brother, David, joins me now.
David, first of all, have you heard anything from U.S. officials about the next steps in a potential prisoner exchange that includes your brother?
DAVID WHELAN, BROTHER OF PAUL WHELAN: No, we're really learning things from the media as you are. So Sec. Blinken acknowledged Foreign Minister Lavrov's comments this morning and I think it will now be radio silence until we see some sort of result.
BASH: So no quiet - I mean, I wouldn't expect you to tell me what the communication is, but I just - am curious, there's nothing, no communication at all from the government?
WHELAN: No. I think it was extraordinary for Sec. Blinken to mention the offer that had been made in June publicly anyway and that has reassured us that the U.S. government is engaged. But yes, at this point, I don't expect any additional communication about what they've offered or what the Russian response is going forward.
BASH: And have you been able to have any communication at all with your brother.
WHELAN: Our parents are able to speak to him on an almost daily basis. He's not able to send letters anymore because of the war in Ukraine has stopped the postal service. And he seems like he's getting through day-to-day. He's aware of the offer. He is aware of the U.S. government's commitment to bring him home, but I think like all of us, we're focusing on today and maybe tomorrow but not looking too far ahead.
BASH: Understandably so. CNN talk to Trevor Reed this morning. He was in a Russian labor camp for three years before he was released in April in a prisoner exchange and he described life inside a Russian cell like - take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TREVOR REED, FORMER U.S. MARINE IMPRISONED IN RUSSIA FOR THREE YEARS: The food there is terrible sometimes that could be just some fish bones or broth of fish bones, potato soup with - it's mostly water. Solitary confinement there is basically consists of just a concrete room with a hole in the floor for a toilet, just really middle age looking stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: And David, you've expressed concern about your brother Paul's health while in captivity in Russia. What issues do you think he is having and is that based on what he's telling your parents in these almost daily calls? WHELAN: Yes, everything we get from Paul these days is from those
calls and he's lost about 20 percent of his weight from when he was arrested back in 2018. And as Trevor described, it's not a great environment to be in the first place. The food is not nutritious. It is not meant to keep you healthy and with the sanctions now, the prison has started to cut back on both what it serves the prisoners, so they're getting smaller portions of not very good food, but also the commissary which has in the past sold fresh fruits and vegetables it's not doing so any longer.
So we're very concerned about his health and his ability to maintain his health as the days and the years go by.
BASH: Your sister, Elizabeth, has been quite vocal about not forgetting Paul, which is understandable and welcome. She tweeted today in reaction to the news about Brittney Griner's sentencing - verdict and sentencing: "Well, I certainly am ready. This discussion," talking about prisoner swaps, "had better include Paul Whelan as well as Brittney Griner. Hashtag BringThemHome."
Does your family have to constantly remind people that Paul Whelan is being held in jail there? He's not a WNBA superstar.
WHELAN: I don't know that we have to remind people so much, but that - there is the concern as it happened back in April that Paul might be left behind and it's the unfortunate realistic perspective we've got to have, which is that Ms. Griner's case and Paul's case are separate cases and the U.S. government has to treat its American citizens separately.
And so while they may have made an offer to bring both of them home, and we hope that they will, there's absolutely the opportunity for the Russians to say, well, we will only make one concession. And then U.S. government will have to choose. And so hopefully, that won't happen but I think we have to be prepared. And Elizabeth, I think, is very proactively frustrated, perhaps, or concerned that this may be an outcome that we have to deal with.
BASH: Yes. Well, it's understandable. I'm a sister also, so I get it. Is there anything that you want to say directly to officials as they begin the prisoner exchange or as they're maybe in the middle of prisoner exchange negotiations?
WHELAN: Well, to the American officials, I'd say thank you for making the offer. I know it was a difficult one to make and I hope that they will stick to it. They have publicly said that they will bring home two Americans and I hope that they will do so. And to the Russians, I would say I hope that your self-interest is satisfied and that you get what you want.
BASH: Thank you so much, David Whelan, brother of Paul Whelan. Thank you. Appreciate it.
WHELAN: Thank you, Dana. BASH: And after ordering Alex Jones to pay millions to the parents of
the Sandy Hook victim, jurors are now deciding whether to award punitive damages. Details from the courtroom and how the family is reacting next.